As Biden Pushes For Cooperation With Iran, Europe Tries To Put It On Hold

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Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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The European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said Friday that talks with Iran needed to “pause.”

Borrell’s comments came as the U.S. appeared close to rejoining an accord the country withdrew from in 2018, and for Iran to once again limit its nuclear program, according to the Associated Press. Borrell said “a pause” was needed in the talks, blaming “external factors” for the delay.

“A pause in #ViennaTalk is needed, due to external factors. A final text is essentially ready and on the table. As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all #JCPOA  participants and the U.S. to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement,” Borrell tweeted Friday morning.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the 2015 nuclear deal’s formal name. Discussions have been ongoing for months in Vienna over the best way of restarting the deal, according to The Hill. The timing of the imminent conclusion comes as Russia last week tied the negotiations to sanctions Moscow faces over the current invasion of Ukraine, the AP noted.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that a pause “could be a momentum for resolving any remaining issue,” ahead of restoration, the outlet continued. Khatibzadeh retweeted Borrell’s original tweet, writing that a “successful conclusion of talks will be the main focus of all. No external factor will affect our joint will to go forward for a collective agreement.”

Khatibzadeh did not expand on the “external factor,” but the AP noted that Iran has been “careful in the waning days of the talks not to upset Russia, which it views as an ally against the U.S.” (RELATED: What Happens If Putin Nukes Ukraine?)

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded “guarantees at least at the level of the secretary of state” that the sanctions placed on Moscow would not impact its relationship with Iran, according to Al Jazeera.

Though State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the Biden administration was “close to a possible deal.” He also noted a small number of outstanding issues, Al Jazeera reported. Russia’s latest demands left a question over the deal negotiations thus far, as Iran was set to drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

A report from Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted an anonymous source “close to Tehran’s negotiators,” suggesting that Russia’s latest demands are the reason for the sudden pause, the AP reported. Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told journalists in Vienna that he was “not aware of any impasse,” the outlet stated. “Contacts will continue,” Ulyanov said. “The conclusion of the deal does not depend on Russia only.”

“We regret the pause, but as we know, negotiation cannot be conducted in a political vacuum,” Chinese Ambassador Wang Qun said, according to the outlet. (RELATED: ‘You Should Be Scared’: Trump Discusses A Potential Nuclear War)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was approximately 7,055 pounds as of Feb. 19, with some enriched to 60% purity, the AP reported. Iran has since stopped the IAEA from accessing surveillance footage and has resumed enrichment.